Entries Tagged 'Life' ↓

Lessons from poker

A few years back, I was trying to improve my poker game (as a real geek if I start doing something I have to research it; I can’t just experience it).  I read a few books and one of the pieces of advice I received (probably from author Larry Phillips in his book of Zen advice for poker) has stuck with me well into other areas of my life.

Simply put, it’s this: don’t make yourself into a character in a story.

In the game of poker, this basically means that you shouldn’t let yourself see patterns in the randomness of the game which influence you.  After something improbable happens a few times, you might begin thinking “That always happens to me,” and next time there’s a chance of that happening, you back off, frightened.  Your ace-high flush bested by a full house twice in one night becomes “I never win with flushes,” and next time you get a flush, you fold the winning hand.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look for situations where you misread the game — perhaps you are “always” losing with the second-best hand because you aren’t evaluating the probability of the winning hand being present accurately.  But that’s not what Phillips is talking about.

This advice carries over into the professional world as well.  How many times have you encountered people who claim “I just don’t get that kind of stuff,” when faced with a new problem?  “Oh, I’m no good at writing,” or “I don’t get all this social media stuff,” or even “I’d never make a good manager.” These individuals have written themselves into a story; instead of seeing all their options, they are living life like a character in a book, their reactions predetermined by the plot they’ve built in their head.

Not only are these people missing out on their own potential, they are advertising their closed-mindedness to their colleagues, customers, and managers.

I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t be self-aware.  Knowing your strengths and weaknesses, knowing where to invest your energy and where to cut your losses: these are vital skills to acquire.  But do it knowingly, by choice, and carefully.  Don’t project the “oh well it’s not meant to be” attitude of the two-dimensional character in a pulp novel.

Everyone works for PR

Have you read my disclaimer?  Over on the side of my page?  These are not my employer’s opinions, I don’t speak for EMC, EMC doesn’t speak for me, and so on?

That might protect EMC if I were to go off the deep end legally.  They might be able to fire me, disavow all knowledge of my actions, and prevent themselves from getting in too much trouble themselves.  But if I were to do something legal but just plain stupid, do you think that disclaimer would prevent the EMC brand from being damaged in your eyes?  Of course not.

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The power of the Big Idea

May 25, 1961: President John F. Kennedy tells the world that America will send a man to the moon within a decade.  July 20, 1969: Man walks on the moon.  Eight years.

The day after EMC World 2009 ended, I spent several hours touring Kennedy Space Center on Florida’s eastern coast.  It’s easy to take our space program for granted, but as I walked among the incredible reminders of the challenges and victories of the Apollo Program I couldn’t help but be moved.  The nation came together in pursuit of this Big Idea, thousands upon thousands of men and women combined their expertise and their passion and the result were honest-to-goodness human footprints on our moon.

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EMC World 2009 – Day Three – WME Breakfast

On day three the conference has begun to take its toll.  Legs, feet, back, brain — all tired.  But this morning was energizing — a breakfast discussion with Natalie Corridan-Gregg and a panel of working mothers.  I’ll let others discuss the meatier parts of the breakfast, but I wanted to share some of what I took away from it.

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Making do with less

Doing more with less is hardly a new directive; we’ve all felt the pinch at work and I’m sure everyone reading this has a story to tell on that front.  With the recent news of EMC’s temporary 5% pay cut and temporary suspension of 401(k) matching, people are talking about ways to lessen the impact at home. I know a lot of you are probably in similar situations.

Where is going the stock market ?????
Creative Commons License photo credit: pfala

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Work/Life Balance Redefined

We’ve all heard we should eat a balanced diet.  Of course, what that means is up for some debate.  For some people, a balanced diet means starving yourself on rice cakes for five days and binging on fried food and beer all weekend.  And while that may average out to a normal caloric intake, nobody really thinks that’s a healthy and balanced way to approach food.

slow suicide by food
Creative Commons License photo credit: Joits

Many people approach their work/life balance similarly.  “Work hard, play hard,” brings to mind people overexerting throughout the workday, and then partying all night to compensate.  There’s also the approach that says “I do as little work as I can without getting fired.  The company works me as hard as they can for as little money as possible without me quitting.”  Sure, that’s a kind of balance.  But surely there’s a better way?

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Same problems, different worlds

I spent some time chatting with extended family members this weekend, after attending a funeral.  As tends to happen, the subject of work came up, and we got to talking about difficult times at our workplaces.  I’m changing some details to protect some identities, but I thought the stories were interesting enough to share.  Though we all find ourselves in different worlds, the major issues we face are very similar.  One family member told me that in over 20 years of working, this was the only time he had truly hated going in to work.  That’s quite a statement.  What sort of environment could cause that?

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The Two Month Checkup

When I was more actively pursuing my fitness, I noticed something interesting.  At 2/3 of the way through any training workout, I knew I could complete it. The repetitive and incremental nature of training left me with an understanding of my physical and mental capabilities, and with only a third of the workout left I was generally able to describe how the workout had gone.  I still had a full third of the workout left, but there were no surprises left in it (well, barring an injury or accident).

Creative Commons License photo credit: yoshimov

It’s the first week of March.  The quarter is two-thirds done.  If that pattern holds, there are no surprises left.  You know how this quarter is going, you know what is coming in the remaining month.  So now is a good time for a checkup.

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Seven people to follow on Twitter

(While I am focused on Twitter in this post, you can easily adapt this to blog subscriptions or other social networking activities)

You might wonder how I can list just seven people to follow on Twitter.  I can’t — I lied in the headline to draw you in.  Sorry (not really).  Instead, I’m going to suggest seven types of people you should follow on Twitter, and explain what I mean.

You should follow people who are:

  1. What you are: think about the roles you play in life (manager, writer, father, husband, hiker, EMC employee, etc.) and follow people who also play those roles. They will talk about things you find interesting, and pass along links which you probably want to read.  You’ll build a network of people who are in similar places as you in life, and that’s very valuable.
  2. Who you want to be: what are your dreams and goals?  Follow people who are achieving them. They will help you understand the reality of their lives, and help you perhaps achieve those goals.
  3. Who you used to be: why live in the past? To participate!  When someone follows point # 2 above and follows you, follow them back. Maybe they want your advice, maybe they don’t, but you’ve figured out something and they want to learn from it, so why not share?
  4. Educating you: there are a few people out there with thousands upon thousands of followers.  You don’t follow them to make friends with them, you follow them to learn from them. They serve to aggregate and distribute information.  Find the ones who talk about the things you are interested in, and keep an eye on them.
  5. Making you laugh: let’s face it, everyone needs a chuckle now and then.  So find someone who pretends he’s Darth Vader, or God, or whatever makes you laugh, and follow.  The worst that happens is you get tired of their shtick and remove them.
  6. Inspiring you: whether it’s a marathon runner, a champion cyclist, or a highly successful author, someone who would probably inspire you is on Twitter right now. You might not learn anything from them in a given day but seeing them in this new medium hour to hour will be a constant reminder of what it is about them you find inspiring.  And who knows, maybe someday you’ll actually make a connection.
  7. Outside your world: there’s so little cost in following someone on Twitter that it would be a shame to limit your network unnecessarily. Find some people who are experiencing a life you have very little background with, and follow them. Get a glimpse into the life of someone in a country you’ve never visited, an industry you’ve never worked in, a hobby you’ve never tried. Keep your horizons a little broadened.

Oh, and it goes without saying that you should follow your co-workers and boss, if that’s applicable :).  Does your employer have a corporate Twitter identity?  Do your competitors?  Maybe this should have been a list of ten … who else did I miss?

Five reasons to “friend” your co-workers (or boss!)

(This same question is raised over and over in different contexts.  Though I’m talking about Facebook the discussion is clearly not limited in scope to that site.)

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably had to make a decision in the past year or two on whether or not to accept a friend request from a co-worker, perhaps even from your boss.  If you aren’t on Facebook, there’s a good chance you’ve overheard people talking about it, who are, and wondered whether you should be there.

If either of those describes you, the time has come.  Go forth and connect … and here’s why.

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